Sarah's Personal Page for Michael
On Saturday, February 17, 2018, I woke up at my friend's apartment for the start of a weekend getaway to Washington, DC. We had brunch plans with another friend at a popular French restaurant, and I was to meet up with a dear mentor of mine and her family that afternoon.
My friends and I took a cute picture following a yummy brunch, and I hopped in an uber to meet my mentor and her family at a coffee shop. It was around 2 PM.
About half way through our coffee date, I get a phone call from my mom. I assumed she was just calling to check in, so I ignored the call, knowing I would call back later. But then she called again. She does not usually call repeatedly, so I knew something was up. It crossed my mind that something could have happened, but I figured it was probably nothing major.
I answered and said, "Hey can I call you back, I'm having coffee with someone."
She responded frantically, "Sarah, there is a flight to Boston at 5 PM. I need you to get on that flight home."
I started shaking: "What happened...”
I heard my dad's voice on the phone as well: "Sarah, we just need you to come home. Can you make it to this flight?"
My mentor, her husband and her baby sat across the table from me, sensing something terrible had happened.
I repeated, "What happened?! What's going on?!"
My mom replied, "We need to process this as a family. We will tell you when you get here."
Without thinking twice, my mentor and her family got their car and raced me to my friend's apartment - I can't thank them enough for that. My friend had packed all of my things, and I told her I'd update her as soon as I knew what had happened - I can't thank her enough for that either. My mentor and her family drove me to Reagan National.
As we drove - as her beautiful baby girl was smiling and playing with me in the back seat - my mind was racing. I still did not know what happened, so I tried to guess.
My mind immediately jumped to my brother Michael - the warmest, kindest, hardest working and truest mensch of a person I have ever known. Michael had been struggling with a terrible depression. I had spoken with him two days before. We had plans to see each other the following weekend. The unthinkable might have been possible. But I didn't want to assume before I had considered other options.
I texted my brother David - he responded immediately, so I knew he was ok. I texted my brother Andrew - he did not respond immediately. I tried to call him - he didn't answer. I searched the internet for terrorist attacks abroad, because Andrew travels regularly for work. Finally I checked Facebook messenger and saw that he had been active a few minutes before - so I knew he was ok.
I then texted Michael and got no answer. My mind jumped to the unthinkable again. Once I arrived at the airport, checked in and boarded the plane, there was an announcement that my flight was delayed two hours.
I didn't panic. I just continued to brace myself for all possibilities. I called my parents again. They still wouldn't tell me what happened over the phone - which I actually thanked them for in the end, because it gave me time to mentally prepare for the worst.
I asked them if what had happened required any immediate decisionmaking - whether a family member was injured and we had to make some sort of medical decision. They said no.
At this point, I had ruled out my parents, Andrew and David. I thought perhaps it could be my grandfather, who was 100 at the time. But the urgency - the panic - did not add up. I figured they would have told me over the phone if my grandfather had died. It would have been very sad, but not an unthinkable tragedy. My mom wouldn't have said, "we need to process this as a family."
I had a strong feeling then that Michael had killed himself. I wasn't sure, but it started to add up. I called my boyfriend and told him what I thought might have happened. He sat there with me on the phone until the plane took off. When we landed, I braced myself again. I still had no text from Michael. He had not been active on Facebook messenger earlier. I walked out of arrivals and saw our car with my parents, Andrew and David in it. My mom got out immediately, and I could tell she had been sobbing. She never cries.
She led me to the car and I sat down. She closed the door. I asked, "Is it Michael?" Everyone nodded. "Did he kill himself?" Everyone nodded again. I screamed. Everyone wailed. I told them I had a feeling that had happened after analyzing the possibilities for so long that day. We sat in the car at Logan Airport arrivals for some amount of time.
My parents cried for days. That was the hardest part - Andrew, David and I wanted to comfort them as we comforted ourselves. It was traumatic. I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy.
I camped out at my best friend's house. She dropped everything and came to Boston immediately. My boyfriend did too. I couldn't be in my house at certain times those first few days because it was just too indescribably painful. Two other friends dropped everything and came over to be with me.
I wrote this part of the most horrible day in an email draft about 6 months ago. I had to stop writing at that point because it was too painful. I am now opening up that draft again and rereading - really reliving - those first few moments after finding out that Michael took his own life.
I’ve had some time to process. My family has had a bit of time to heal, and now we are ready to take action. This year, we are participating in the Samaritans 5k. Samaritans saves lives and maybe could have saved Michael’s.
As my mom said, concealment killed Michael - the misplaced shame associated with mental illness stopped him from opening up about his pain. That is why it is my goal moving forward to educate - to take the stigma out of this disease (yes, it is a disease), so people like Michael never forget their worth.
Please help me in that effort by donating today.
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